Since the Epiphany, we have emphasized our Baptismal Vocation to:
- Proclaim Christ in Thought, Word, and Deed through Imitation;
- Seek Justice and Honest Peace;
- Act with Compassion and Mercy; and
- Love and Serve All People, but especially the Vulnerable.
Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to utilize our prophetic voice participating in ushering forth the Kingdom of God that is here among us now in glimpse, that is near, and that is not yet fulfilled. Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable for it is convicting to the hearer while dangerous for the speaker.
Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to proclaim a call to repentance, or an opportunity for individuals, communities, and nations to turn from their own will to the Will of God. This call is to be proclaimed whether we desire the person or persons to be afforded this second chance.
Our share Baptism invites us into repentance, thus acknowledging our need to turn from our own will and toward the Will of God in a second chance yet again.
Our Baptismal emphasis does continue this morning.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Jesus is impressing the people and teaching with authority.
And yet, Jesus is interrupted by the disruptive outburst from the unclean, demonic spirit within a man. This unclean, demonic spirit recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus quickly silences the unclean, demonic spirit with an exorcism nestled in our passage.
The Gospel of Mark has the ‘Messianic Secret’, or Jesus holding his divine identity secret even from his most intimate disciples until the Transfiguration.
Thus, Jesus silences and removes the unclean, demonic spirit that announced his divine identity.
Exorcism is not often discussed in mainline Protestant denominations, perhaps we are not comfortable with the idea of supernatural evil forces that must be removed from persons. However, our Rite of Baptism and our Affirmation of Baptism does include a minor Rite of Exorcism.
- Do you RENOUNCE the devil and all forces that defy God?
- Do you RENOUNCE the powers of this world that rebel against God?
- Do you RENOUNCE the ways that sin draws you from God?
And, we responded “I renounce them”. This was a minor Rite of Exorcism.
The devil and all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the sin that draws us from God and neighbor, whether actively or in silent complicity, are unclean spirits.
But, what are these unclean spirits?
Our Christian Scriptures do support the presence of supernatural evil summoned from the depths of hell, but admittedly this disturbs me and thankfully is rare. Thus, I tend to shy away from the topic.
In the Biblical era, disability or illness in mind or body was often attributed to unclean, demonic spirits. Despite advances in science and medicine, there are faiths and persons who continue to do so.
And yet, our Rite of Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism does not limit said unclean spirits to supernatural forces from hell determined to destroy our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
Instead, these rites intend to exorcise any spirit, force, idea, or action that defies the Will and Kingdom of God in and among the entire creation, our nations, our communities, our synagogues and churches, and even within ourselves.
Prejudice based upon race, ethnicity, or nationality is an unclean spirit.
Prejudice based upon gender, gender-identity, or sexuality is an unclean spirit.
Prejudice based upon socio-economics, education, or age is an unclean spirit.
Prejudice based upon political affiliations is an unclean spirit.
Prejudice based upon religious adherence or lack thereof is an unclean spirit.
The dehumanizing of one another is an unclean spirit.
The denying persons respect and dignity is an unclean spirit.
All acts of violence and any harm done to another in mind, body, or soul is an unclean spirit.
Silent complicity in the presence of said unclean spirits is also an unclean spirit.
Unfortunately, we are all guilty of said unclean spirits.
And thus, the minor Rite of Exorcism in our Rite or Affirmation of Baptism is needed daily.
It is the daily renouncing of the devil and all forces that defy God.
It is the daily renouncing of all powers that rebel against God.
It is the daily renouncing of all the ways that sin, personal and communal, draw us from God and neighbor.
This exorcism is not for our sake alone. This exorcism is for the sake of our neighbors, places of worship, communities, nations, and the entire creation.
May we affirm our baptisms daily
including the renouncing of all unclean spirits.
May said minor Rite of Exorcism enable us
to more faithfully follow the Will of God.
Scripture was Mark 1: 21-28.
Originally preached 31 Jan. 2021 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).